This review contains spoilers.
After the enjoyable Pilot (later subtitled 'Backlash of the Hunter'), 'The Kirkoff Case' is the first regular episode of 'The Rockford Files', and gets the series off to a nice start.
Like much of Rockford's stories, I find it hard to sum up my precise thoughts on the plot – on the one hand, it is very well written and thought out; on the other, the plot in many ways, it isn't completely gripping. But – again as with much of Rockford's stories – it is the character interactions that really make things.
...And 'The Kirkoff Case' is typical of that. It's a fairly decent plot, but not one that is outstandingly interesting; instead it is the character moments that make the episode – in particular, Jim's many guises and cons, in evidence here much more than they were that in the Pilot.
With the arrival of the regular series, we also see Noah Beery, Jr., in the role of Jim's aging truck-driver father Rocky for the first time (after the role was played by a different actor, Robert Donley, in the Pilot). He doesn't get much screen time in this one, but already we can see the great Jim / Rocky relationship in evidence that will come into play throughout so much of the series' run.
We also get our first proper play of the show's theme tune (a different version, not played in full, was used on the original feature-length version of the Pilot). It's one of Mike Post & Pete Carpenter (who would become regular associates with writer / producer Stephen J. Cannell)'s many great, catchy TV themes, and sums up the feel of the show perfectly. To note is that several different takes of the theme were used over the course of the series, and this first season version is a notably different variant, getting more of a "full orchestral" feel in places (particularly on the closing credits version), and not progressing on to the latter mid-stages of the theme as would become common on later versions. Anyway, back to the plot itself... as I say, not totally gripping, but I did enjoy it, mostly for Jim's many gift-of-the-gab moments in his various con guises. It's a typical Stephen J. Cannell script, with many great lines that are witty without trying *too hard*. Interesting to note, one of the main characters in this episode is called Tawnia Baker – a name that Cannell would later use for Marla Heasley's character in the later second season of 'The A-Team', as a replacement for the departed Amy Allen. I woulda maybe liked Jim's regular Pontiac Firebird to have been involved in the climatic chase across the golf course instead of a rented car, but that's me just being picky.
All-in-all, while better episodes may have appeared as the series progressed, as the first regular instalment, 'The Kirkoff Case' does the job well, for the most part making for a very enjoyable hour of 1970s TV. I give it 9/10.